What it’s like to be young and unemployed.

Spoiler alert: it’s shit.

So I haven’t written a personal blog in something like 4 and a half years, so this could get messy. To sum up the last 4 years of my life, went to uni, became management of a student radio station, presented a radio show on BBC Radio 1 to 8 million+ listeners, started volunteering doing media for a women’s football team, got nominated for a national student radio award, graduated uni with a decent degree, got a decent job, got engaged to a wonderful girl, planned to do a PGCE so I could go into teaching… And then it all went to shit.

So after graduating I was fortunate enough to get an internship working in the marketing department of my university on an 8 month contract. I loved my time there, but ultimately, it was a fixed term contract so I had to have an eye on the future. 6 months into the internship I was accepted onto a PGCE so I could move into teaching – something I’d always wanted to do growing up but didn’t have the self confidence to pursue. As my contract came toward its end in April, I was offered an extension so I could continue working until I started my PGCE. It was perfect. A year of working and earning, then I can start a career teaching. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out like that. Due to circumstances out of my control, I was rejected for the student finance that would be necessary for me to pay rent and bills during the PGCE. I found this out a month before I was due to start, and my contract would end in my internship 4 weeks later. Suddenly, the next 40 years of my life that I had mapped out crumbled away. The next month was a frantic mess of attempting to find a new job before my contract ended, and trying to work out how I was going to pay the rent if I didn’t find one.

As it turned out, I didn’t find a job. And 5 months later here I am, still unemployed, with debt out my ass and a rapidly diminishing will to live.

You see stories online all the time. About how my generation are the “snowflake” generation, constantly offended, afraid of hard work, too fragile for the “real world”. As much as these stories annoyed me, I often dismissed them because I assumed it was an exaggeration – surely people didn’t REALLY think like that? And yet, one fateful day after a trip to the job centre (where for what felt like the 100th time I was told “with your CV you’ll find something in no time”), I was sat at a bus stop waiting for the bus to take me home, and these two elderly people sat next to me and we started chatting. It was all friendly at first, until they asked me what I was up to that day. I told them “well I’m just heading home, had an appointment at the job centre“. Their attitude towards me completely changed.

That’s the problem with people your age, they don’t want to work” one of them said to me. “Too scared of hard work, that’s your problem” the other replied. I was in shock. Normally I can be quite witty and sharp, and would’ve come back with a clever retort, but I was so dumbfounded by the sudden attack that I just turned away in silence. The first guy followed it up with “you spend all that money going to university and spend four years partying rather than doing something useful“, before the second guy dropped in that fan favourite word to describe my generation; “snowflake”.

I am by no means afraid of work. I went to university to learn, and to put myself in a good position to start a career. I spent a year in a decent job, made a good plan for the rest of my life, and for reasons out of my control, it all fell through. I have volunteered in my field for 3 years, done unpaid work experience and freelance jobs, and applied to do more. But apparently because I’m unemployed, I’m a snowflake? Bullshit.

Over the last five months I have applied for a staggering total of 387 jobs. How do I know this? Because one night I couldn’t sleep. I was worrying about when that next job would come, how I was going to pay next months rent, and how were my partner and I supposed to start a life and a family when I’m too useless to get a job. So, instead of sleeping, I decided to go back through my emails, my job website accounts, my internet history, everything, and I damn well counted them all. Every single job. In five months I have applied for 387 jobs. I’ve been unemployed for a total of 151 days. I average 3 jobs applied for a day. 21 a week. 84 a month. How many interviews have I had from 387 applications? 6.

Now I know what some people will be thinking – clearly there’s something wrong with your CV. Well, so did I after the first 6 weeks. So I got some help from a friend of mine who graduated from one of the best universities in the world and is now in a fantastic job earning money I could only dream of. He said my cover letter was perfect, and helped me take my CV and turn into something top tier. Everyone I’ve shown it to, from job coaches, to friends in the industry, has praised it. And yet since then I’ve still had zero luck. I’ve had so many rejections that I get flashbacks to my pathetic attempts with girls as a teenager, and more often than not I don’t hear back at all. I ask for feedback on my application so I can improve for the future, and I either never hear back, or I get told “you would’ve been perfect for the role, but we went another way”, a sentence that I now hate more than anything I’ve ever heard in my life before.

So what is the purpose of this blog post… Well I’m hoping it sheds some light on the troubles some people have to suffer through just to get a foot into employment. And maybe, just maybe, next time someone wants to call out a young person for being a snowflake who’s afraid of work, they’ll take the time to think about what they might be going through. The job market is unbelievably convoluted, and just because I’m unemployed, doesn’t mean I’m afraid of work. Let me tell you, I would rather get a phonecall right now telling me I’ve got a job and I start in 20 minutes, than spend another day endlessly searching for jobs only to get rejected over and over. My self esteem is at an all time low, my passion for my field is beginning to falter, my hopes for the future seem to be endlessly fading. In the past two weeks there have been a few big occasions; Valentines day, and both my and my fiancee’s birthdays. I had to tell my fiancee, however, that I couldn’t buy her flowers or a present this year – I haven’t got any money. And I spent my own birthday at home alone looking for jobs, because I had no money to remotely celebrate.

So here I am now, fresh off looking through over 1000 jobs within a 50 mile radius of my home for the 152nd day in a row, with all my savings, my pension, and every penny I have, spent on rent and bills, and claiming benefits that don’t even cover half of my outgoing costs. I’m on the verge of becoming homeless and spend every single day questioning my very being, asking myself “what must be wrong with me for nobody to want to employ me“. I constantly question the path I’m taking, and wonder what I did for it to all go so horrifically wrong.

Anyone who thinks the majority of young, unemployed people are here by choice needs to put themselves in the shoes of those people. When I was in school, I suffered with horrific mental health problems, depression, bullying, and abuse. And I honestly think I’m finding it mentally harder for me now, than it was in what I called the worst days of my life. And the worst thing? I know there are plenty of people out there who have it as bad, if not worse, than I do. Unemployment fucking sucks.

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